After years of overpacking and stuffing things in your bag at the very last minute, it’s time to do things differently. Little tips and tricks make all the difference, here is your ultimate list for finally becoming an efficient packer.
If you put off packing until hours before — or even the night before — it’s highly likely you’ll forget something important. Try to get into the mindset of packing a week out and set things aside as you go, even if you haven’t started placing them in the suitcase yet. You want to make sure you’re not forgetting anything in the pressure of packing quickly. No one wants to end up with five swimsuits but no toothpaste.
As soon as you write something down, you hold yourself accountable for getting it done. In the same way, making a to-do list before a trip helps you manage your time better. While jotting things down, also think of any additional items you need to buy before your vacation.
A good place to start packing is by sorting items into general categories: tops, bottoms, undergarments/socks, outerwear and sleepwear. Again, no need to put them in the suitcase all at once, but by arranging items into piles, you can visualize what you have, what you need and how much space you have to work with.
The last thing you want is to have to wait for the clothes to dry so you can finish packing. Doing laundry at least two days before your trip will be helpful for managing your time. You especially want to pack some fresh pajamas to change into after traveling.
Expert packing means taking proper care of your essential items. Get a clear toiletry bottles set so you can pour your shampoo, body wash and face wash into their own container. You’ll save money by not buying separate travel-sized products, and you’re saving room by not taking bulky squeeze bottles. You can reuse the containers throughout your travels.
To take efficient packing to the next level, invest in a three-piece travel pouch set. Designate one of the small bags to all of your toiletries — personal care items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, facial wipes, floss, hair ties, shaving tools, hairbrush, nail clippers, a small mirror, wash cloths and anything else you can’t do without. The clear bottles can get a pouch of their own, and your makeup can be put in the last pouch. Also make sure the travel bags are the appropriate size so they can easily transition between your carry-on, checked bag or your handbag.
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One of the most productive packing tricks is to pack according to each day. Take the time to select an outfit for each day of your trip, right down to a pair of socks. This way, you’ll pack only what you know you’re going to wear instead of throwing multiple pieces into the bag without any thought. Knowing what you’re going to wear for the duration of the trip will also eliminate the stress of not being prepared.
Opt for items that are multi-functional and not overly specific. For example, try packing outfits that can easily transition from day to night, like a midi skirt or a classic little black dress that can be worn with flats and a jacket in the morning, and a cute pair of heels or jewelry for dinner. These two-in-one pieces will save you major space in your suitcase, especially for a weekend getaway.
Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert and founder of KonMari, has shown countless people on her Netflix show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” how to fold and store clothes. The trick to folding a shirt is to fold both sleeves, make a long rectangle with the shirt, then fold it in half lengthwise, and then again into a third, getting it as small as possible. Place the shirts standing side by side instead of stacked on top of each other. Applying the same vertical storage rule when folding clothes to put in a suitcase will not only keep your clothes compact, but this method makes it easier to see where everything is placed so you’re not making a mess every time you take something out.
Shoes may be the No. 1 reason for a crowded and heavy suitcase. Not only do they take up the most space, but chances are you won’t even wear them all. Think about which shoes you usually wear on trips, and keep only those. Be selective and put extra thought into picking the most comfortable and versatile pairs. Wear one in transit, and only keep one extra — not two or three.
Take full advantage of every inch of your bag. The small zipper pockets on the front of most suitcases are perfect for socks or any smaller non-breakable items.
Keep in mind that most airlines limit each checked bag to 50 pounds before charging additional baggage fees. Make sure to check your airline’s policy before heading out.
There’s a good chance you won’t have access to an iron on your trip. But there are a couple things you can do to eliminate wrinkles in the first place. If you're packing delicate fabrics or dress pants, fold the item as few times as possible to prevent wrinkles. Place the bottom half of a dress in the suitcase and put less-delicate clothing on top to form a cushion, then fold the other half of the garment over it. The cushion of other clothes will help keep the creases out. Another trick — this one from Marie Kondo — is to roll thinner fabrics instead of folding to prevent wrinkles.
Instead of squeezing your underwear in the top zip of the suitcase, there are some quick tips that will save your delicates and some space. Try the stack and fold method: stack all your underwear on top of each other and tightly roll it, and then place the stack in any gaps between clothes. You could also use a garment bag to keep everything in one place.
Carry-on bag dimensions vary across all major airlines, but they should fit in the overhead bin. According to the Transportation Security Administration, each passenger is allowed to bring one quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosol (like bug spray or hair spray), gels and creams in their carry-on. These items are limited to 3.4 fluid ounces. Other things to put in your carry-on are toothbrush/toothpaste, phone charger, any documents you might need, daily medication if necessary, a snack, valuables like jewelry as well as fragile items.
Depending on the duration of your trip or what airline you’re taking, you might consider checking a bag. If so, pack anything you won’t immediately need or have to use during your travel in a checked bag. Big coats, extra shoes, bulky items, extra purses and more should always be checked. TSA has an extensive list of what passengers can and cannot bring in checked or carry-on bags.
TSA officials require passengers to remove all personal electronic devices (that are larger than a cell phone) from carry-on bags and place them into a bin for screening. To make this part easier, put your laptop on the top layer of your bag, right on your clothes. Unless you’re taking a separate laptop bag on the trip, you don’t want to rummage through your neatly organized suitcase to get your devices out. Packing like this will also ensure TSA won’t have to dig through your whole bag to find a device should you forget to pull it out.
Phone chargers and adapters — if necessary for an international trip — are something you should never travel without. And the easiest way to keep your multiple wires and cords together is a zip-lock bag. Use a twist-tie to hold the wires together so they don’t get tangled while you travel. You can easily store the zip-lock in your handbag or hand-carry.
It would be a bummer if a TSA official had to go through your whole bag because they couldn’t figure out what everything was. A perfectly packed, decluttered suitcase makes everything clearly visible in the screening machine. Pack your bag neatly and tightly so things are visible.
Similar to decluttering your bag for TSA-ease, use clear zipper bags for valuable things you’d rather not be exposed, like jewelry or a watch. Some metal items will beep in the machine, so storing them in a clear bag will quickly solve the issue when an agent sees what the item is.
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Airplanes can be freezing, so be sure to bring along a sweatshirt or jacket. But don’t pack it in your carry-on. Airlines don’t count sweatshirts and coats as an extra “carry-on” item so you’ll be saving some space in your suitcase by simply draping it over your arm or tying it around your waste.
You don’t want to make the mistake of packing a hundred little things first and not having room for the bigger stuff. Put the bulky stuff down first as a foundation and then fit everything else in like a tidy puzzle. This is especially important for irregular-shaped items like a hairdryer.
If you want to be extra efficient, ditch your liquid or foam face wash. Facial wipes are a great option, but there’s also the more trendy stick cleansers. You can pack them separately from your liquids because they won’t spill, which means you can just throw them in your bag fuss-free. Depending on the brand, stick cleansers are a cross between a balm and a bar of soap in terms of consistency. Best of all, they’re TSA friendly.
The best part about taking a trip? Being able to bring something back to remember the good times. You should always keep space in your bag for souvenirs, even if that means leaving a pair of shoes or an extra scarf behind.
This might be a little bit of a cheat, but we’ll allow it. Pack a lightweight, zippered, collapsible tote bag in the event that you need just a little more space. It can be used as a beach tote, a shopping bag, something to keep snacks in or to bring gifts for your friends and family. Now that you’ve got your suitcase packed, you're ready to visit some of the most mesmerizing places on earth.
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